Come February and love is sure to follow, or rather at least Love is Blind. The popular Netflix reality show made a major comeback last month with season two, and has been receiving rave reviews.
For those like me who happen to live under a rock and are not familiar with the show, let me break it down for you. Love is Blind is an experiment where 15 single men and women come together to find love without seeing each other. In essence, it’s a blind date stretched too long — and, perhaps, taken too far. Underneath valley girl accents, vibes, and energies, the show essentially sets up arranged marriages. This is pretty bold, to be honest — even for a Brown Pakistani who has only ever known arranged marriages.
Up until last week, I made sure I ignored Netflix’s persistent effort to get me to watch the show. It was not until my editor decided to hand me the task of reviewing the show that I finally decided to cave in and get on the bandwagon. And then it happened, just what I was afraid of: I was hooked! That being said, I was skeptical of the concept, being all too familiar with how much reality there is in these reality TV shows. Occasionally, however, some moments would make my doubt go away, albeit, briefly.
The Indian Couple
The couple that caught my attention, in particular, was Deepti (Deeps) Vempati and Abhishek (Shake) Chatterjee, the two Indians in the lot who by luck end up finding their way to one another — for the worst.
Shake is a peculiar and all too familiar archetypal Brown guy. Without wasting any time, he makes sure to make every female contestant know how particular he is about the female weight and body type. He famously says to women every chance he gets: “Will I be able to carry you on my shoulders?”
The relationship takes an easy start. Both connect on their Indian heritage and their inexperience of dating Brown people. Despite their smooth take-off, the relationship soon starts to dip. From going behind Deepti’s back and telling other contestants how it feels like “dating his aunt” to constantly making her fall short of his standards, Shake was never invested in her; it really was Deepti carrying the weight of the relationship. Unfortunately, Shake is much the same as some Brown men, who view women through a carefully carved preference. A perfect woman for them is younger than them, light-skinned, and skinny but sexy.
Love Is “Blurry”
This image of an ideal woman that Brown men often have is set in the colonial mentality. To them, a “white woman” is the epitome of beauty — something to pursue and win — which any woman of color should constantly strive to be like. This explains why a white woman is seen as attractive, but a Brown woman is seen only as a “housewife material” — a dynamic that Sojourner Truth sounded off nearly a century and a half too soon in her seminal speech, Ain’t I a woman. Seeing the “I only date white women/I’ve only ever dated white women” rhetoric coming from such a mindset, it was clear what Shake had in mind regarding his ideal partner. Although for Deepti, too, he was the first Brown date, she didn’t hold to a “type” as he did.
Ironically, Shake came to a show about finding a partner on the basis of emotional connection and not physical appearances. Turns out, he was in the wrong show for the wrong reasons; to him, it was all about looks and quick fame.
From calling Deepti the “No.1 hype girl” to “an aunt,” this change of heart says a lot about Shake’s superficial character — and I’m not surprised. From the first interaction on Love is Blind, the man was all sirens and red flags. What in fact shocked me was how the couple made it to the altar. Wait, I know, it’s because the lad didn’t have the guts to confess and deal with the dirt himself; he waited for Deepti to call the shots.
A Possible Transformation, But Not Really
It’s worth noting that there’s a gleam of hope as we see this brief scene of Shake reflecting on his own perceptions of love as he’s sitting in his pod talking to Deepti. Being so vulnerable, he opens up on his earlier experiences as a reflection of how superficial his standards are. Even though Deepti is heartbroken, she is happy that Shake’s experience has made him pause and reflect — even happier that he shared his emotions with her.
Even though Shake has so much work to do on himself, having him admit that his questions have been superficial and confess that he’s ashamed of himself is a good start. Who knows? Maybe he really needed a TV show like Love is Blind so that he would pause and reflect. Because he recognized that it’s ironic to be on a show that’s called Love is Blind and choose to act based upon the perception that love is “blurry.”
That being said, watching him disrespect Deepti on a TV show while using the fact that he isn’t physically attracted to her as an excuse shows that his transformation isn’t imminent; it’s obvious it won’t be an overnight transformation — and it might not even happen in the end.
Doing the Right Thing
To watch Deepti stand up for herself and call out Shake for his superficiality felt reassuring. Brown women have been told all their lives to adjust and compromise — that their happiness is secondary to others’. By walking away at the altar, Deepti upended these notions and reclaimed the agency that Shake had been trying to eat away.
Undoubtedly, it must have been heartbreaking to make such a decision, but Deepti didn’t have to be with someone who loved her even half a percent less. And as for Shake, it’s clear he didn’t love her at all — more so is that he clearly doesn’t know what love truly is if his standards are based on looks.
Reality TV Shows VS Real Life
What I’ve seen with Deepti and Shake is the ugly truth that many Brown women face in our communities. They’re always belittled because of the colonial mentality that people hold onto so tight. But here’s a hard pill to swallow: Brown, Black, or whatever — all women are beautiful; nobody should ever feel they’re inferior just because of this colonial mentality. We’re allowed to decolonize ourselves and see our true worth because we deserve those who will see us for who we are. And so, don’t settle for less.
As for men who still correlate women’s worth to superficial beauty standards, it’s time to unlearn your “preferences” and relearn what love should be based on. Because the truth is, your definition of love will remain fragile if you’re unable to connect with what’s inward.